Where did influencers come from?
Ever since the creation of the World Wide Web in 1991, like-minded users have gathered together, first on web forums and bulletin boards, then on blogging sites, and more recently on social media. In the early 2000s, canny marketers started approaching influential bloggers and forum moderators, asking them to promote products in return for freebies, and later for cash. This process became supercharged with the founding of YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, and in 2010, Instagram – which is now most influencers’ platform of choice. Today, there is an army of influencers: social media users – mostly women – with a large, devoted following, who give their followers access to a carefully curated version of their lives. In this “authentic” context, sponsored content, known as “sponcon”, has proved a potent tool for selling products.
Who are these people?
There’s a bewildering range, from fashion, lifestyle and “mommy influencers” on Instagram to gamers, beauty vloggers and “toy influencers” on YouTube, to teenagers lip-synching to songs on TikTok. Some of the biggest are famous from another field: last week, the rapper Nicki Minaj wore a pair of bejewelled pink Croc shoes on Instagram, where she has 136 million followers; demand for pink Crocs spiked by 4,900% in hours.
Many of the most famous influencers, such as Kim Kardashian (who has 221 million Instagram followers) graduated from reality TV – another carefully…